Race IS Important in Transracial Adoption

TransracialAdoptionFamily4I just read this article about transracial adoption and the needs of children in transracial adoptive families. It was really eye-opening. It mentions Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how important racial identity is. Anyhoo … I’ve posted the short version below.

The research study:

At the time, with Hong Kong struggling to cope with an influx of refugees fleeing communist China, the British government decided to transfer children from overcrowded orphanages to largely white British adopting families.

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering spent three years tracking down and interviewing 72 of them, creating a detailed analysis of the effect of transracial adoption on individuals over 50 years.


Although a spectrum of experiences was reported, some positive, the collective message was that race was critical to the girls’ wellbeing, findings that challenge the government’s proposal that “ethnicity should not be a primary consideration for adoption agencies”.

and …

Referring to the Maslow scale, the hierarchy of needs developed by the late US psychologist Abraham Maslow which stipulates that a person’s fundamental requirements have to be fulfilled before they can realise their potential, Martin believes transracial adoption can fail to deliver much more than the basics.

“They can give food, shelter and all that stuff, but when it gets to the higher end of people’s needs like confirming their identity, self-image, they haven’t been able to fulfil that. It’s really important the adoption process takes this into account and doesn’t sweep race under the carpet,” she said.

Similarly, Martin warned that good intentions are not enough. “Most of the parents were largely middle-class white people with very good intentions and a lot of them very religious. The intentions were great, but the anecdotal recollections show there were quite a few who just didn’t know it was like to be Chinese,” she said.

There is a lot more here How a generation of orphans fared when they were matched to mixed-race couples | Society | The Observer

Watch this GREAT video from PACT founder Beth Hall about preparing to have a transracial family:


2 thoughts on “Race IS Important in Transracial Adoption

  1. Yes, race is a factor in transracial adoption. However, I still believe that race/ethnicity should not be a primary concern when placing children, unless the children are old enough that they themselves request it.
    What we’re learning from the first transracial adoptions, such as these, is that being colorblind is BS. Race does matter. My hope is that this will turn into more training for parents adopting transracially, as well as more outreach for adoptive parents of color.

    • ” … being colorblind is BS. Race does matter.”

      Exactly! Of course there are tons of others things that matter too (communication, style of parenting, etc.) but ethnicity is important. You can’t adopt a kid with a different ethnicity and think that you’ll never talk about their experience living in the world. Heck, even you and your kids are he same ethnicity you should be talking about ethnicity.

      From http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/09/04/see-baby-discriminate.html :
      “Vittrup sent a third of the families home with multiculturally themed videos for a week, such as an episode of Sesame Street in which characters visit an African-American family’s home, and an episode of Little Bill, where the entire neighborhood comes together to clean the local park.

      In truth, Vittrup didn’t expect that children’s racial attitudes would change very much just from watching these videos. Prior research had shown that multicultural curricula in schools have far less impact than we intend them to—largely because the implicit message “We’re all friends” is too vague for young children to understand that it refers to skin color.

      Yet Vittrup figured explicit conversations with parents could change that. So a second group of families got the videos, and Vittrup told these parents to use them as the jumping-off point for a discussion about interracial friendship. She provided a checklist of points to make, echoing the shows’ themes. “I really believed it was going to work,” Vittrup recalls.

      The last third were also given the checklist of topics, but no videos. These parents were to discuss racial equality on their own, every night for five nights.

      At this point, something interesting happened. Five families in the last group abruptly quit the study. Two directly told Vittrup, “We don’t want to have these conversations with our child. We don’t want to point out skin color.”

      Vittrup was taken aback—these families volunteered knowing full well it was a study of children’s racial attitudes. Yet once they were aware that the study required talking openly about race, they started dropping out.

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